Tried & Tested: Le Grand Café, Paris

This story first appeared in Vacations & Travel magazine, spring 2019, issue 112

At Paris’ new Fauchon Hotel, Le Grand Café dishes up food that is almost as pretty as its interior design.

It has been two decades since my first visit to Paris. Back then, meals consisted of cheap baguettes and wine. I’d eat in a hurry in my hostel or on a park bench surrounded by pigeons. This went on for an entire month and I left feeling bloated and craving salad.

This time, I’ve ditched my backpack for a suitcase with wheels. I’m in a proper hotel, and I’m eating in a real restaurant. An amazing one, with a mosaic-mirrored dining room that gleams like a disco ball. Welcome to Le Grand Café, a pretty-in-pink perch at the front of the new Fauchon Hotel in the salubrious 8th arrondissement.

Tried & Tested: Le Grand Cafe, Paris

Perhaps the country’s most luxurious épicerie fine (upmarket delicatessen), Fauchon has been the place to pick up perfumed teas and exquisite cakes since Auguste Fauchon opened his first café in 1886. The brand branched into hotels in 2018 but has stuck with the foolproof theme of delivering pleasure-seeking spaces and a succession of gastronomic experiences.

Like the rest of the property, Le Grand Café’s design is sassy, sensual and sharp, with interiors expert Richard Martinet transforming an historic mansion into a contemporary cocoon of delicious French joie de vivre. There are magenta-velvet chairs and mirrored counters, chandeliers that look like golden seafoam and honeycomb installations that reflect the light.

I have highly polished cutlery before me and an equally polished waiter beside me: Jacques pouring champagne the same flamingo hue as his bow tie. The menu he presents is thoughtful and seasonal, listing a dozen or so dishes, and almost half of them dedicated to vegetables. Pretty vegetables, in miniature and heirloom form; the kind you coo over before you consume.

I begin with a coddled bio-egg, letting its foam of chervil-soy glide over my tongue before revealing the crunch of fresh asparagus. Next, there’s heart of castelfranco (edible rose) with mozzarella and strawberry emulsion, before a cloud-like ravioli arrives stuffed with lobster and languishing in black tea.

There’s more champagne and an internal debate about whether to order another savoury dish or head straight to dessert. In the end, the sweets win, and I sink my spoon into a pillow of Folha cake. At first, it’s all lime and apples, then it mellows and gives my tongue a cuddle with earthy almonds and quinoa. It’s fun, flavourful and like nothing I’ve ever tasted before – a bit like Le Grand Café in a mouthful.

Tried & Tested: Le Grand Cafe, Paris

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